NATIVE TIMES

Subscribe to NATIVE TIMES feed
Native American Times - #1 Source for Native news in the US.
Updated: 6 days 20 hours ago

Cherokee Chief responds to transfer of Veronica Brown

September 25, 2013 - 3:14pm


There is no word for goodbye in the Cherokee language

There is no word for goodbye in the Cherokee language.  We say dodadagohv’I - we will see each other again.  It was with a heavy heart that we watched Veronica Brown leave her home, her family and the Cherokee Nation Monday night.  History is repeating itself, as a Native American child is being forcibly relocated to South Carolina against the will of her father and her tribe.

Once again, a Native American is being told where to live.  Once again, a Native family is being torn apart.  And once again, a young Indian girl will not awaken in the home of her elders.

Our prayers go out to Dusten and Robin Brown, Tommy and Alice Brown, Veronica’s sister Kelsey, and their extended family which includes 320,000 Cherokees. This brave man who served our country simply wanted to raise his child—a child who shares his genes and his heritage. A child who looks like him—and by all family accounts—acts like him too. Veronica may have left the Cherokee Nation, but she will always be a Cherokee citizen.  Perhaps one day she too will have her own children, and they will share her and Dusten’s DNA, and those children will be Cherokee as well.

Our Nation did everything possible to stop this family from being torn apart.  We used every legal avenue at our disposal to keep this family together. But the Cherokee Nation is also a nation with a longstanding history of obeying the rule of law, so that is what we did on Monday. We also have a long standing tradition of adoption within our culture and know that adoption is a good thing when it is ethical and moral.   We will continue to advocate for a greater understanding of and adherence to laws by the courts and adoption agencies to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated.

Dusten Brown packed his daughter’s suitcase, and told her he loved her before sending Veronica off to live with those who wish to adopt her.  This is something a father should never have to do, but for the sake of his daughter, Dusten handled himself with courage and dignity and grace, and we could not be more proud of the way he conducted himself.

And to Veronica— one day you will read about this tumultuous time in your life, and understand why we fought so hard alongside your father to keep your family whole. We hope at that time you understand how special and significant it is to be a Cherokee citizen. You will always be welcome in Tahlequah and in homes across the Cherokee Nation.  Whether we see you sooner or later, we know we will see you again.  In the meantime, we will carry you in our hearts.

Wado,

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

 

Statement from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker,

released by Cherokee Nation Communications Department Sept. 25, 2013

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Capobiancos take Veronica in 'peaceful' hand over

September 23, 2013 - 10:05pm



TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Matt and Melanie Capobianco assumed custody of four-year-old Veronica Brown Monday night, just hours after the Oklahoma Supreme Court dissolved a stay that kept her with her biological family.

Cherokee Nation officials confirmed that the James Island, S.C., couple took the child in a “peaceful” transition at the Jack Brown house at the tribe’s complex in Cherokee County. Veronica and her family have been staying at the trust property for several weeks under the protection of their tribe and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service.

Attorney General Todd Hembree made the announcement to the dozens of Dusten Brown backers who flocked to the Cherokee Nation complex in an effort to show their support. Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Amanda Clinton confirmed the announcement via social media about an hour after the handover.

“It is with a heavy heart that I can confirm Veronica Brown was peacefully handed over to Matt and Melanie Capobianco (this) evening,” she tweeted. “Updates will be forthcoming, but the transition was handled peacefully and with dignity by all parties. Please keep Veronica in your prayers.”

After more than five days of court-ordered negotiations in Tulsa, the Oklahoma Supreme Court dissolved an emergency stay Monday afternoon that allowed Veronica to stay with her father, Dusten Brown, stepmother and paternal grandparents while the appeals process played out. Since mediation efforts have failed, the case will go back to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. No timeline has been disclosed yet.

It is unclear what prompted the hand over. Earlier in the day, Hembree issued a statement demanding that the Cherokee Nation’s judiciary be respected during the proceedings.

"This order, just like any other order from a foreign jurisdiction needs to be filed for domestication with the Cherokee Nation District Court," he said. "There is a conflicting Cherokee Nation order concerning a Cherokee Nation citizen on Cherokee Nation land. We are a sovereign nation with a valid and historic court system.

"As Attorney General, I will require that our court system be honored and respected. I took an oath when assuming this office to uphold the laws and constitution of the Cherokee Nation and the United States. Nowhere in that oath is it required that I defend the laws of South Carolina."

According to published reports, Veronica’s paternal grandfather, Tommy Brown, had to leave the scene in an ambulance due to a medical emergency.

Cherokee Nation officials confirmed that Matt and Melanie Capobianco took Veronica from her father in a “peaceful” transition at the Jack Brown house at the tribe’s complex in Cherokee County.

Okla. court lifts stay in Veronica case, giving Capobiancos chance to take her

September 23, 2013 - 5:26pm


However, Veronica and her immediate family are currently living on trust property adjacent to the Cherokee Nation’s tribal complex in Tahlequah, which means a court order from either the Cherokee Nation or a federal court may be needed to remove the girl.

 

TULSA, Okla. – The Oklahoma Supreme Court has lifted an emergency stay in the fight for Veronica Brown, potentially opening the door for a South Carolina couple to take custody of the girl while the appeals process plays out.

At 2:40 p.m. Monday, the decision was posted to a docket sheet on the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network, just hours after mediation efforts ended between Veronica’s father, Cherokee Nation citizen Dusten Brown, and Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a couple from James Island, S.C., who have been attempting to adopt his child for four years.

The failed mediation now means the case will go before the state’s Supreme Court, but apparently the Cherokee child might not be staying in Oklahoma while the appeals continue. The stay was initially issued on Aug. 30 after a Nowata County district court judge upheld a South Carolina adoption decree that awarded custody of the girl to the Capobiancos.

However, Veronica and her immediate family are currently living on trust property adjacent to the Cherokee Nation’s tribal complex in Tahlequah, which means a court order from either the Cherokee Nation or a federal court may be needed to remove the girl.           

All parties involved the case are still under a gag order. It is unknown when or if Veronica Brown will be handed over to the Capobiancos, as attorneys for both Cherokee Nation and Dusten Brown filed responses with the Oklahoma Supreme Court within an hour of the stay’s dissolution.

Thanks to a court-ordered seal, the responses’ contents, along with the details from the six days of negotiations, are not public information.  However, a copy of the Supreme Court decision was posted online late Monday afternoon and shows five of the nine judges ruling to dissolve the stay.

Two ruled against dissolving, one abstained and the ninth, Justice Tom Colbert, split his decision.

In her dissent, Justice Nona Gurich cited the lack of a recent best interest hearing in her hesitance to dissolve the stay. One of the primary arguments from Cherokee Nation and the Brown family, a best interest hearing in the case has not been conducted since Veronica rejoined her biological family almost two years ago.

“More importantly, South Carolina courts failed to hold any kind evidentiary hearing concerning the best interests of Baby Girl and the likelihood of psychological harm to the child resulting from a severance of the parent-child relationship,” she wrote. “Additionally, Father's parental rights were terminated without proper notice and an opportunity to be heard. Everything in the life of Baby Girl has changed since 2011, and therefore, I cannot join the majority's decision to dissolve the temporary stay and to deny original jurisdiction.

“Although this is a complicated case, we should accept our legal responsibility to follow established law in making a determination having such a profound impact on the life of this child.”

It is also unclear what, if any impact, Monday’s decision to dissolve the stay will have on a decision handed down earlier this summer by the Cherokee Nation District Court that awarded guardianship of Veronica to her stepmother, Robin Brown, and her paternal grandparents, Alice and Tommy Brown. That ruling was handed down just prior to a Charleston County, S.C., family court judge finalizing the adoption decree in the Palmetto State.

In a released statement, Cherokee Nation attorney general Todd Hembree made it clear that Monday’s decision would have to be filed with the tribe’s judiciary before the Cherokee Nation takes any action.

"This order, just like any other order from a foreign jurisdiction needs to be filed for domestication with the Cherokee Nation District Court," he said. "There is a conflicting Cherokee Nation order concerning a Cherokee Nation citizen on Cherokee Nation land. We are a sovereign nation with a valid and historic court system.

"As Attorney General, I will require that our court system be honored and respected. I took an oath when assuming this office to uphold the laws and constitution of the Cherokee Nation and the United States. Nowhere in that oath is it required that I defend the laws of South Carolina."

The four-year-old has been living with her father in Oklahoma after spending the first two years of her life with the Capobiancos. In addition to two South Carolina courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, the case has gone before judges in eight different Oklahoma courts.

Veronica and her father, Dusten Brown

COURTESY PHOTO

Wind farms kill 67 eagles in 5 years

September 16, 2013 - 9:47am

 


WASHINGTON (AP) – Wind energy facilities have killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles in the past five years, but the figure could be much higher, according to a new scientific study by government biologists.

The research represents one of the first tallies of eagle deaths attributed to the nation’s growing wind energy industry, which has been a pillar of President Barack Obama’s plans to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming. Wind power releases no air pollution.

But at a minimum, the scientists wrote, wind farms in 10 states have killed at least 85 eagles since 1997, with most deaths occurring between 2008 and 2012, as the industry was greatly expanding. Most deaths – 79 – were golden eagles that struck wind turbines. A power line electrocuted one of the eagles counted in the study.

The president of the American Bird Conservancy, Mike Parr, said the tally was “an alarming and concerning finding.”

A trade group, the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement that the figure was much lower than other causes of eagle deaths. The group said it was working with the government and conservation groups to find ways to reduce eagle casualties.

Still, the scientists said their figure is likely to be “substantially” underestimated, since companies report eagle deaths voluntarily and only a fraction of those included in their total were discovered during searches for dead birds by wind-energy companies. The study also excluded the deadliest place in the country for eagles, a cluster of wind farms in a northern California area known as Altamont Pass. Wind farms built there decades ago kill more than 60 per year.

The research affirms an AP investigation in May, which revealed dozens of eagle deaths from wind energy facilities and described how the Obama administration was failing to fine or prosecute wind energy companies, even though each death is a violation of federal law.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has said it is investigating 18 bird-death cases involving wind-power facilities, and seven have been referred to the Justice Department.

Wind farms are clusters of turbines as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors as wide as a passenger jet’s wingspan. Though the blades appear to move slowly, they can reach speeds up to 170 mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes.

Wind farms in two states, California and Wyoming, were responsible for 58 deaths, followed by facilities in Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Utah, Texas, Maryland and Iowa.

In all, 32 facilities were implicated. One in Wyoming was responsible for a dozen golden eagle deaths, the most at a single facility.

The Cherokee Nation’s Tribal Council on May 13 authorized a limited waiver of sovereign immunity so Cherokee Nation Businesses can move forward on wind energy and wind resources leases for Chilocco Wind Farm LLC.

The wind farm project calls for placing turbines on 3,000 acres of CN-owned land near the former Chilocco Indian Agricultural School in Kay County that would be partially managed by CNB.

The Osage Nation, also in north central Oklahoma, is trying to keep a St. Louis-based wind company from building 94 wind turbines in Osage County.




Cows graze in a field spotted with wind turbines. A federal study states that more than 60 eagles have been killed by wind energy facilities in the past five years.

WWW.DIS.ANL.GOV PHOTO

Notah Begay III Foundation initiates obesity, diabetes fight

September 16, 2013 - 9:40am

 

SANTA ANA PUEBLO, N.M. – The board of directors and staff of the Notah Begay III Foundation has launched a national initiative to expand the foundation’s fight against childhood obesity and Type II diabetes in Native American children.

The initiative plans to lead extensive research and advocacy while assisting Native American communities in developing evidence-based health and wellness programs.

The initiative is set to begin with efforts in three regions of the country – the Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona), the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin) and the Southern Plains (Oklahoma, Texas). The focus was made possible through a generous $1.5 million grant to NB3F by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one of the nation’s largest health foundations.

“This is a transformative day for the Notah Begay III Foundation. It’s the next step in realizing our vision to empower Native American children nationwide to achieve their potential as tomorrow’s leaders,” NB3F founder Notah Begay III said. “Childhood obesity and Type II diabetes are epidemics in Native American communities. Until we invest the appropriate resources to turn the tide against these preventable diseases, they will continue to overwhelm our communities. There is still much more work to be done but, with the help of the great people at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the ongoing support of all our partners and donors, today we’ve taken a very important step toward accomplishing our mission.”

Begay said the foundation is grateful for the public’s continued support and attention as programming is expanded to include Native children throughout the country.

“With your support NB3F believes the serious health issues facing Native communities can be stopped and we can give the Native leaders of tomorrow the tools they need to live healthy, active and balanced lives,” he said. “Together, we can help Native American children grow into the cultural protectors of tomorrow. It is NB3F’s hope that we can help Native American children live healthy, live strong and live Native.”

For more information, call 505-867-0775 or email info@nb3f.org or visit www.nb3foundation.org.

In 2005, Begay established the Notah Begay III Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, to address the profound health and wellness issues impacting Native American children and to empower those youth and help them realize their potential as tomorrow’s leaders. The mission is to reduce the incidences of obesity and diabetes and advance the lives of Native American youth through sports and wellness programming.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing the country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, it works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable and timely change. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.



Notah Begay III acknowledges the crowd after a birdie on the 18th hole to help the U.S. team win the 2012 Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge at Atunyote Golf Club at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y.

KEVIN RIVOLI | ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Gaming websites spark call for federal investigation

September 16, 2013 - 9:36am

 

CONCHO, Okla. – Two gaming websites are prompting one of the two claimant Cheyenne and Arapaho governments to consider bringing criminal charges against the other.

The tribal council affiliated with Leslie Wandrie-Harjo, Janice Prairie Chief-Boswell’s former lieutenant governor and the current leader of an opposition government, will consider a resolution at its Oct. 5 meeting to request a federal investigation into Prairie Chief-Boswell and Brian Foster, the chief operating officer of the tribes’ Lucky Star casinos in western Oklahoma, for potential embezzlement due to their involvement in the tribes’ attempt to start an online poker site with actual cash betting.

PokerTribes.com, a joint venture between the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Universal Entertainment Group, was launched in June 2012. Originally billed as a free social networking site, PokerTribes and its corresponding mobile applications included explicit references to financial transactions, including a “Buy credits” button on its home page and content about refunds for inactive accounts in its terms of service page. Due to federal law prohibiting American financial institutions from handling cash transactions involving U.S. citizens and online gambling, the site’s financial transfers and distributions would have involved foreign bank accounts.

Despite an estimated international launch date of summer 2013, as of Friday morning, the site has the same “coming soon” sign that was first posted in April, thanks to objections from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the terms of a settlement signed between Janice Prairie Chief-Boswell and the state of Oklahoma that would have allowed the site to operate internationally in the more than 70 countries that allow Internet gambling.

Signed in April, the agreement called for the state to receive 20 percent of the site’s total profit. The BIA notified the Prairie Chief-Boswell administration of its objection in August, noting that a more appropriate share for the state would be closer to 10 percent of the gross revenue.

The resolution set to go before the council next month claims that the contract for PokerTribes.com and BingoTribes.com was signed illegally without the consent of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Council. No resolutions concerning the contracts could be found on any Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Council agendas or minutes published between October 2011 and August 2013. Under Article VII of the tribes’ constitution, contracts must be approved by the Tribal Council, which is made up of all tribal citizens age 18 or older. At least 75 members must attend a tribal council meeting to establish quorum.

The resolution also asks that the funds tied up in the websites be returned to the tribal treasury.

To date, the Boswell administration has paid Universal Entertainment Group $9.4 million for both PokerTribes.com and BingoTribes.com, including a $499,999.99 check with the same date stamp as a tribal press release announcing that the tribes were officially in a state of emergency due to financial problems stemming from the ongoing dispute between the Prairie Chief-Boswell and Wandrie-Harjo administrations, including a Custer County, Okla., court freezing $6.4 million of the tribes’ assets. With questions still in place over who is the tribe’s legitimate governor, those assets are still under the court’s administration.

Currently, Prairie Chief-Boswell is listed as the tribes’ governor in a Bureau of Indian Affairs nationwide listing of tribal leaders and is recognized by the state of Oklahoma as the Cheyenne and Arapaho’s governor.

Under the Cheyenne and Arapaho constitution, the penalty for embezzlement is up to one year of jail time and a fine of $5,000 per count convicted.

Neither the Prairie Chief-Boswell administration nor Universal Entertainment Group responded to requests for comment by deadline.

 



PokerTribes.com, a venture between the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Universal Entertainment Group, launched in 2012.

POKERTRIBES.COM IMAGE

UN expert urges respect for Veronica’s rights

September 13, 2013 - 10:41am

 

GENEVA – The United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, has called on the relevant state, federal and tribal authorities in the United States to take all necessary measures to ensure the wellbeing and human rights of Veronica Brown, an almost four-year-old Cherokee child at the center of a highly contentious custody dispute.

“Veronica’s human rights as a child and as member of the Cherokee Nation, an indigenous people, should be fully and adequately considered in the ongoing judicial and administrative proceedings that will determine her future upbringing,” Anaya said. “The individual and collective rights of all indigenous children, their families and indigenous peoples must be protected throughout the United States.”

Brown is facing a judicially ordered removal from her Cherokee family and community. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that certain protections of the Indian Child Welfare Act did not apply to proceedings in which a non-Cherokee couple sought to adopt her, given the particular circumstances of the case. The high court, however, did not make an ultimate determination of the disposition of the adoption proceedings.

Following the Supreme Court decision, a South Carolina state court awarded custody of Brown to the non-Cherokee couple, but it did so without a determination of whether her transfer away from her Cherokee family would be in her best interests in light of her current situation and Cherokee heritage.

Although Veronica lived with the non-Cherokee couple in South Carolina for the first two years of her life, she has now resided with her father, Dusten Brown, and extended indigenous family in the CN’s jurisdiction in the state of Oklahoma for nearly two years.

South Carolina authorities have attempted to force Veronica’s father to release custody of her, charging him with custodial interference for his refusal to do so. On Sept. 3, the Oklahoma Supreme Court took up the case granting a temporary stay of an enforcement order and allowing the father to keep Veronica pending further proceedings.

“I urge the relevant authorities, as well as all parties involved in the custody dispute, to ensure the best interests of Veronica, fully taking into account her rights to maintain her cultural identity and to maintain relations with her indigenous family and people,” Anaya said.

The independent expert pointed out that various international instruments subscribed to or endorsed by the United States, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, guarantee these rights.

In his 2012 report on the situation of indigenous peoples in the U.S., Anaya noted that the removal and separation of Indian children from indigenous environments is an issue of longstanding and ongoing concern.

“While past practices of removal of Indian children from their families and communities have been partially blunted by passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, this law continues to face barriers to its implementation,” he said. “I encourage the United States to work with indigenous peoples, state authorities and other interested parties to investigate the current state of affairs relating to the practices of foster care and adoption of indigenous children, and to develop procedures for ensuring that the rights of these children are adequately protected.”

The UN Human Rights Council appointed Anaya as special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in March 2008. He is a regents professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona. As special rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

James Anaya

Sorting out Cobell, Salazar settlements

September 9, 2013 - 1:15pm

 

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The recent rash of unprecedented payouts from different lawsuit settlements in Indian country has brought about more confusion than the economic relief and sense of justice anticipated.

In a recent phone call to Native Sun News, Marie Conroy Lange, a Lakota elder, expressed her concerns about what she had mistakenly thought was federal funding coming to the Pine Ridge Reservation. In fact the money she was referring to was the Cobell and Salazar payments made to individuals and also to the tribes.

“I misunderstood what was going on, and I kind of called people and chewed them out because of it,” said Lange. “I’m a very vocal person so I think I owe an apology to those I talked to.”

Lange’s confusion is not uncommon. Many tribal members across Indian country have questions that they would like to have answered in a layperson’s language.

Cobell v. Salazar, was a class action lawsuit about individual Indian land, funds and other assets held in trust by the federal government. Courts have decided that the federal government had violated its trust duties, including a duty to account for Individual Indian Money trust funds. This is where the term IIM accounts come in.

President Barack Obama signed legislation authorizing government funding of a final version of the $3.4 billion settlement in December 2010, opening the door for resolution after fourteen years of litigation

What the settlement will provide is a $1.412 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund, plus a $100 million Trust Administration Adjustment Fund, plus any earned interest, to pay for Historical Accounting and Trust Administration Claims.

This money will also pay for the cost of administering and implementing the Settlement, as well as other expenses

$1.9 billion of the settlement is used to create a Trust Land Consolidation Fund to purchase “fractionated” individual Indian trust lands. The program will allow individual Indians to get money for land interests divided among numerous owners. Land sales are voluntary. If you sell your land it will be returned to tribal control.

Up to $60 million is allocated for an Indian Education Scholarship Fund to help Native Americans attend college or vocational school. This money will come out of the $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund and will be based upon the participation of landowners in selling these fractionated land interests. A non-profit organization chosen by the parties will administer the Indian Education Scholarship Fund.

Any remaining funds in the Accounting/Trust Administration Fund, after all distributions and costs relating to the Settlement are paid, will be transferred to the Indian Education Scholarship Fund. Any payments for Class Members that remains unclaimed for five years after Settlement is approved will be transferred to the Indian Education Scholarship Fund.

The proposed Settlement affects individual Indians across the country, including members of most  Federally recognized tribes west of the Mississippi River. The Settlement includes two groups or “Classes.” An individual may be a member of one or both Classes. Most people included in the Settlements are members of both Classes.

The Historical Accounting Class involves anyone alive on September 30, 2009 who had an open IIM account any time between October 25, 1994 and September 30, 2009. These accounts have had at least one cash transaction that has not been reversed for any reason.

The Trust Administration Class is made up of those individuals alive on September 30, 2009 who had an IIM account recorded in currently available electronic data in the Federal government systems anytime from approximately 1985 to September 30, 2009. These members need to demonstrate ownership interest in trust land or land in restricted status as of September 30, 2009.

Much of the confusion comes from the titles of the settlement monies being distributed. The “Cobell Checks” as they are commonly referred to, come from the money that was allocated to the individual IIM account holders. What is referred to as the Salazar Money is the fund that was distributed to the tribes.

Reform of the Indian trust management and accounting system should continue in the future. The Settlement Agreement allows some funds in the Trust Land Consolidation Fund to be used to pay costs related to the work of a commission on Indian trust administration and reform. In the future, Class  Members will still be able to bring claims against the federal government for trust reform.

The Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs has failed, time after time, to understand the simple fact the many impoverished Indians living on large and isolated reservations do not have the money to buy a computer nor do they have the accessibility to the Internet. By not recognizing this fact the BIA and Interior were woefully inadequate in providing information to the IIM account holders or to the tribes about the Salazar monies. This lack of communications from the powers-that-be and the people has added greatly to the confusion.

This and more information is readily available at the website established to keep members of the lawsuit informed. The website can be found at www.indiantrust.com. You can also call toll free 1-800-961-6109. If you do not have access to the Internet please ask your elected representative or your local office of the BIA to please provide that information to the Native American newspapers that continue to serve Indian country.

Copyright permission by Native Sun News




Tex Hall, left, with Elouise Cobell on Capitol Hill in 2002. The group was attending a meeting of the House Resources Committee on the Indian Trust.

COURTESY PHOTO

Every child left behind: Sequester guts Indian Education

September 9, 2013 - 1:05pm

 

The cuts to K-12 education funding because of the federal sequester will impact students and teachers across the country, but many say they will hurt American Indian elementary and secondary school students the most.

Tribal schools are funded through a number of mechanisms, among them the federal government (through per-student payments, grants and Title I, II and VII programs), tribes and sometimes states. A major source of funding comes from the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Bureau of Indian Education, which allocates ISEP (Indian School Equalization Program) funds on a per-capita basis.

Ray Lorton is superintendent of the K-12 Puyallup Tribal School System. The tribe’s Chief Leschi Schools serve 900 students, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, approximately 95 percent of them American Indian from 60 tribes. He is expecting a cut of $400,000, or 5.9 percent, in school funding this year as a result of the sequester. “We’re looking at faculty and staff attrition first, and also taking a look at increasing enrollment and applying for more federal grants. We have grants in place that will sunset, and we want to maintain the personnel, such as instructional coaches, funded by those grants.”

Coeur d’Alene Tribal School Superintendent Eric Kendra says the tribally controlled land grant school has about 100 students in grades K-8. He is eager to retain supplementary instructional personnel, despite the sequester. “We’re applying for federal grants in reading and math in an effort to keep our math coach, reading coach and intervention person hired with No Child Left Behind funding. Now we’re making [adequate yearly progress] and losing the funds.” Those hires, he says, provided “crucial” help in making those gains.

Debbie L. Simpson, superintendent of the Colville Confederated Tribes’ K-9 Paschal Sherman Indian School, says the school will weather this year’s $250,000 cut in federal funding. The BIE just told schools to expect a 6-percent cut, but she says she anticipated this and has been working closely with her accountants. “It’s not going to affect us. I’m a stickler with the budget. We follow the guidelines and watch our spending. The most important thing is to meet the needs of the students; students come first.”

The situation is significantly different at the Quileute Tribal School, where Superintendent Jon Claymore anticipates tough times. “For a small tribal school already scrambling financially, we will be hit very hard by any additional decrease in funding,” he says. “All our programs and facilities will be compromised. We keep getting asked to do more with less.”



Public Schools Serving Mostly American Indian Students

The U.S. government has a special responsibility for American Indian kids, as well as those of families living on military bases and in some low-income housing facilities. One way the government meets that obligation is by providing Impact Aid for the education of children attending public schools in districts where the tax-base has been reduced because of the presence of Indian reservations, military installations or other federal activities. The program, authorized by Title VIII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Unlike other federal education programs affecting American Indian children, such as Title I, Title II and Title VII, Impact Aid is distributed during the school year in which it is to be used, not the year before. Schools that receive it are usually heavily dependent on that funding, since they do not have access to funds generated by local property taxes. Those schools started feeling the cuts as soon as federal sequestration went into effect on March 1, cutting roughly 5 percent to 6 percent from the program.

“We’ve already felt the effects and are making adjustments. We’re looking first at supplies and equipment, not cutting academic programs,” Dwight Pickering, director of American Indian Education at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, says.

The effect of the cuts, for most schools, are expected to be profound and they are expected to do the most damage to schools that educate large numbers of American Indian children. “American Indian kids are the ones who will be hurt the most by cuts to Impact Aid because they are in schools where the highest percentage of dollars come from Impact Aid,” says John Forkenbrock, executive director of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools.

The 2012-2013 cuts are expected to total $60 million, about 65 percent of which will be taken from schools with American Indian kids. According to the National Indian Education Association, the cuts to Impact Aid will hit 115,000 Native students. NIEA President Heather Shotton explains that, “for our Native students in federally impacted schools, the effects of sequestration are devastating because these are real dollar cuts in real time from district and school budgets.”

Dennis Olson, director of the Office of Indian Education in the Minnesota Department of Education, says the cuts “will be at least 15 percent of the total budget for some schools,” when reductions to the other Title programs are figured in. He believes the cuts will have a “significant, significant impact.” Schools, he says, are looking at retirements, attrition, and cutting positions such as guidance counselors in an all-out effort to avoid having to cut teachers, but that too will be on the table if the sequester continues into next year. Building closures are also a possibility.

In Minnesota, Jeff Bisek, superintendent of the Mahnomen Public School District on the White Earth Reservation, which serves 612 students in grades K-12 of whom about 70 percent are American Indian, says the district “anticipated this cut last year and have been preparing for it. We’ve been downsizing as people retire and expect to lose one full-time teacher this year. We’re also looking at reducing one bus route, which will mean longer ride times, and cutting our afterschool homework club program” from four days a week to two.

Next year, he says, they may have to cut extracurricular activities. “Kids need things to do outside of school and extracurricular activities help to meet that need. We provide transportation at 5:30, using Impact Aid funds to provide a bus for transportation as far as 25 miles away. Transportation is a huge issue; if that is cut, there will be less participation in extracurricular activities.” Other components that could fall victim to federal cuts include mental health services and the presence of a resource officer at the school. “We’re done trimming the excess; we’ll be trimming meat and potatoes pretty quickly,” says Bisek.

Pickering agrees: “This first year is going to be okay. Next year’s sequestration will be devastating.”

Arizona receives more Impact Aid than any other state. Debora Norris, deputy associate superintendent of Native American Education and Outreach for the Arizona Department of Education, points out an irony inherent in cuts to Impact Aid. “Native American students are experiencing a large achievement gap at the same time that [state] standards are being raised. As Common Core is put into effect, there will be more math and science requirements for graduation. All of these things mean increased needs for Native American students.”

In a letter to members of the Arizona Congressional delegation, John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Arizona Department of Education, wrote: “Districts and charters in Arizona receive nearly 51 million in federal impact aid, with the vast majority going to schools serving Native students…. The schools on our reservations in particular have worked to improve educational outcomes for their students, and a long term disruption in this stream of funding will be detrimental to the students who need it most.”

Edward Slocum, superintendent of the public component of the K-12 Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota, says many of his students are eligible for Impact Aid, which accounts for about 40 percent of the annual budget and pays for about half the teaching staff and paraprofessionals for around 1,100 students. “It looks like an 8 percent cut for us. We don’t want to increase class size further, which would have a serious impact on students, so we’re being extra careful with materials and supplies.”

These funding cuts come after a deep cut in state funding two years ago that forced the school to reduce classroom teachers from six to five for each grade, increasing class size. “When they cut too deep, all we can do is lay off personnel,” he says. Like Norris, he is concerned about the timing. “These funding cuts come at the same time as test score requirements are increasing. Our kids are at a disadvantage. Our schools are expected to do more with less.

“The federal government turning its back is like a deadbeat father who doesn’t pay child support. He has an obligation. So does the federal government.”


Reprinted with permission of Indian Country Today Media Network



Susie Thompson reads a traditional Cherokee story to students in her Bell, Okla. classroom and teaches Cherokee words - such as “peach.”
FILE PHOTO

Study shows same issues affecting Indian education in 1928 still have influence

September 9, 2013 - 12:58pm

 

There are few sights as moving as watching over 100 newly minted American Indian college graduates proceed in full academic regalia adorned with tribal touches as they walk across a stage to receive honor for their accomplishments.  Whether these students have earned their Associates, Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate degrees, the message is clear: American Indian students can be successful in higher education.

However, the number of American Indian college students who enter into higher education and leave their chosen institution having earned degrees is dismal compared to their non-Native counterparts.  There are several explanations for this, including lack of college readiness, geographic limitations on proximity to higher education institutions, cultural and family responsibilities in students’ home communities, and increasing costs associated with higher education, limiting both access and students’ ability to continue through degree completion.

These limitations, along with many others, are not new to American Indian education.  Historically, American Indian students have faced these issues while groups of dedicated American Indian scholars, tribal leaders, communities, and families have sough to alleviate problems of access to promote American Indian sovereignty through increased opportunities in higher education.  According to a 2013 national study conducted by Mackey and Warner, For Our Children: A Study and Critical Discussion of the Influences on American Indian and Alaska Native Education Policy, educators and educational leaders from across the United States indicated that the same issues influencing American Indian education in 1928 as stated in the Merriam Report continue to influence education in a similar manner today.

While it may seem as if this paints a bleak picture for the future of college graduation rates for American Indian students, the opposite is true.  Historic setbacks have provided educators, leaders, and policy-makers with crucial information that can lead to improved strategies for increasing the numbers of American Indian students both represented in and graduating from institutions of higher education.  One of the most critical components to successfully reaching this goal is strategic collaboration between higher education institutions and the Native communities they serve along with inter-tribal and inter-state collaboration among Native people.

“Fundamentally, we are at a point of taking all of the good work done by scholars before us and striving to incorporate that collective knowledge into a newer form of decolonization—decolonization of the mind and spirit” says Dr. Hollie Mackey, Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Oklahoma and enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation.  According to Mackey, this includes shifting non-Native peoples’ attitudes and knowledge about American Indians through integration of curricular and leadership perspectives of American Indians into mainstream educational settings at colleges and universities.  “Understanding the historic and contemporary experience and contributions of Native people should not be relegated to an elective, but should be considered part of a core curriculum in every institution in this nation; pre-school through graduate school” states Mackey.

A number of institutions across the United States have implemented programming and support for recruitment and retention of American Indian students, spanning multiple disciplines.  Additionally, research centers across the nation examine issues of equity and access for Native populations and devise recommendations for increasing the numbers of students who attend and complete a degree program at an institution of higher education.  Public, tribal, and private schools serving students in pre-school through 12th grade along with state departments of education in states serving higher numbers of American Indian students have developed models for culturally appropriate curriculum and college readiness strategies.  National organizations such as NIEA and AIHEC have become clearinghouses of resources and thought on education issues.  Now is the time for Native communities that once worked in isolation from one another to come together to ensure a brighter educational future for our children, a future where higher education is an attainable goal supported by a stable structure of collaboration among American Indian people.

As Dr. Henrietta Mann has noted, a generation of educators, scholars, and activists risked much by opening the doors to higher education that were previously closed to American Indian youth.  Educators and scholars who have benefitted from these open doors are tasked with carrying on the legacy of this work to break down the walls as well.  Academic regalia should be as common a sight each spring as the traditional regalia seen at area powwows.  Through collaboration and strategic policy influence, the day will come when higher education institutions will need larger stages and venues to support the numbers of American Indian graduates filling their halls, and that will be a moving sight indeed.

Dusten Brown turns himself in, released on bond

September 5, 2013 - 2:02pm

 

Thanks to an emergency stay issued Friday afternoon, Brown’s daughter is still in the custody of her biological family. Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to sign an extradition order for the girl's father does not impact the child’s current placement.

SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Dusten Brown is still a free man – despite Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signing a request for his extradition to South Carolina Wednesday afternoon.

Brown, the biological father of a three-year-old girl known in the press as “Baby Veronica,” turned himself in to the Sequoyah County sheriff’s department Thursday morning. He posted bail and was released on his own recognizance before noon.

The Nowata native is wanted in South Carolina for custodial interference, a felony charge that can carry a jail sentence of up to five years if convicted. A Charleston, S.C., family court judge issued the warrant last month after Brown and his daughter did not attend a court-ordered visitation with an adoption counselor and Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the non-Native couple from James Island, S.C., who have been trying to adopt the child for almost four years.

On Wednesday afternoon, Fallin signed the extradition request, claiming Brown had not acted in good faith in custody negotiations with the Capobiancos.

In accordance with Oklahoma law, a hearing on the potential extradition is scheduled for Oct. 3.

Fallin, who had 90 days to act on the request, originally said she would not sign off on the order until after Brown’s now-postponed hearing in Sequoyah County District Court, originally scheduled for Sept. 12. Brown turned himself into law enforcement there last month after being allowed to leave National Guard training in Johnston, Iowa, and was out on a $10,000 fugitive bond. However, within 24 hours of her original statement, Fallin reversed course and threatened to sign the warrant if Brown did not allow the Capobiancos to visit the child.

“My goal in the Baby Veronica case has been to encourage both Mr. Brown and the Capobianco family to reach a quick settlement and come to an agreement that protects Veronica’s best interests,” Fallin said. “I said previously that I was willing to delay Mr. Brown’s extradition to South Carolina as long as all parties were working together in good faith to pursue such a settlement. I also outlined parameters for what I believe to be acting in ‘good faith:’ both Mr. Brown and the Capobianco family should be able to see Veronica; both parties should continue meeting to pursue a resolution outside of court; and both parties must obey the courts and the rule of law.”

Due to a gag order in the case, Brown and the Capobiancos were unable to comment on the developments. However, Brown’s attorney, Clark Brewster, told the Associated Press that his client had allowed the Capobiancos to visit the child several times while in Oklahoma but canceled a scheduled visit Saturday in Tahlequah during the Cherokee National Holiday at the advice of the Cherokee Nation Marshal service. Brewster also told the Associated Press that Brown’s legal team offered to meet with Fallin’s advisers to discuss the warrant’s legal issues, but the meeting did not happen. 

The custody decision is still under review by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Thanks to an emergency stay issued Friday afternoon, Brown’s daughter is still in the custody of her biological family. Fallin’s decision to sign the extradition order does not impact the child’s current placement.

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has stayed the transfer of custody of Veronica Brown, and even with this knowledge, Gov. Fallin has hastily inserted herself into the judicial process as Dusten seeks his due process,” Cherokee Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., said. “Instead of allowing the courts to decide this case, Gov. Fallin has used her authority to attempt to coerce Mr. Brown into handing over his daughter. The civil rights of both Dusten and Veronica Brown are being ignored. Dusten has the right to due process, and the right to object to the unethical adoption that already took his daughter away once. The events of today, and the events that have unfolded over the past four years should frighten every parent, and more specifically, every single father in Oklahoma.”

Okla. Gov. signs Dusten Brown extradition order

September 4, 2013 - 6:58pm

 

With an emergency stay in place from the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the extradition order does not impact Veronica Brown’s current placement with her biological family. The child and her family are presently staying on tribal trust property near the Cherokee Nation complex in Tahlequah, Okla.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced Wednesday afternoon that she signed a South Carolina extradition order for Cherokee Nation citizen Dusten Brown.

Brown, the biological father of a three-year-old girl known in the press as “Baby Veronica,” is wanted in South Carolina for custodial interference, a felony charge that can carry up to five years in jail if convicted. A Charleston, S.C., family court judge issued the warrant last month after Brown and his daughter did not attend a court-ordered visitation with an adoption counselor and Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the non-Native couple from James Island, S.C., who have been trying to adopt the child for almost four years.

“Unfortunately, it has become clear that Dusten Brown is not acting in good faith,” Fallin said. “He has disobeyed an Oklahoma court order to allow the Capobiancos to visit their adopted daughter and continues to deny visitation. He is acting in open violation of both Oklahoma and South Carolina courts, which have granted custody of Veronica to the Capobiancos. Finally, he has cut off negotiations with the Capobiancos and shown no interest in pursuing any other course than yet another lengthy legal battle.”

Last month, Veronica’s court-appointed attorney, Angel Smith, filed a request with the Cherokee County District court to suspend all visits from the Capobiancos. However, due to a gag order and court-imposed seals on all documents related to the case, there is no way to verify if negotiations have ended, whether Smith’s motion was acted on or if the Capobiancos have actually seen the child since coming to Oklahoma more than three weeks ago.

Fallin, who had 90 days to act on the request, originally said she would not sign off on the extradition order until after Brown’s hearing in Sequoyah County District Court on Sept. 12. Brown turned himself into law enforcement there last month after being allowed to leave National Guard training in Johnston, Iowa, and was out on a $10,000 fugitive bond. However, within 24 hours of her original statement, Fallin reversed course and threatened to sign the warrant if Brown did not allow the Capobiancos to visit the child.

“My goal in the Baby Veronica case has been to encourage both Mr. Brown and the Capobianco family to reach a quick settlement and come to an agreement that protects Veronica’s best interests,” Fallin said. “I said previously that I was willing to delay Mr. Brown’s extradition to South Carolina as long as all parties were working together in good faith to pursue such a settlement. I also outlined parameters for what I believe to be acting in ‘good faith:’ both Mr. Brown and the Capobianco family should be able to see Veronica; both parties should continue meeting to pursue a resolution outside of court; and both parties must obey the courts and the rule of law.”

With an emergency stay in place from the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the extradition order does not impact Veronica Brown’s current placement with her biological family. The child and her family are presently staying on tribal trust property near the Cherokee Nation complex in Tahlequah, Okla.

Late Wednesday night, Cherokee Nation officials shared their disappointment with the new developments in the case.

“We feel that the governor has failed in her duty to protect our most vulnerable citizens, which is exactly what Veronica Brown is-- a minor child and citizen of the great state of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation,” Cherokee Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., said. “We all continue to pray that a court will determine what is in Veronica’s best interests, which has yet to happen.

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has stayed the transfer of custody of Veronica Brown, and even with this knowledge, Gov. Fallin has hastily inserted herself into the judicial process as Dusten seeks his due process. Instead of allowing the courts to decide this case, Gov. Fallin has used her authority to attempt to coerce Mr. Brown into handing over his daughter. The civil rights of both Dusten and Veronica Brown are being ignored. Dusten has the right to due process, and the right to object to the unethical adoption that already took his daughter away once. The events of today, and the events that have unfolded over the past four years should frighten every parent, and more specifically, every single father in Oklahoma.”

Fallin’s decision comes on the same day as the Browns and Capobiancos took their case to a sixth Oklahoma courthouse – this one in Muskogee County. Due to the gag order and court-ordered seals, it is unclear what prompted the move other than the unexplained recusal of the presiding Cherokee County Court judge. The case has also gone before judges in Sequoyah County, Nowata County, the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Cherokee Nation District Court.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, left, speaks to the media before the start of a special session of the legislature in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. Fallin requested the special session after the Oklahoma Supreme Court in June threw out a comprehensive 2009 bill that overhauled the state’s civil justice system. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Okla. Supreme Court issues stay in Veronica case

September 4, 2013 - 11:09am

 

The Court granted an emergency stay on Aug. 30 that keeps young Veronica with her father, Dusten Brown, and members of his family.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A custody fight over a 3-year-old Cherokee girl shifted to Oklahoma’s highest court on Sept. 3 as lawyers gathered to discuss who should raise the child: a South Carolina couple who have attempted to adopt her since birth or the girl’s biological father, who claims a federal law requires that she be raised in a Native American home.

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court said earlier on Sept. 3 that it had granted an emergency stay on Aug. 30 that keeps young Veronica with her father, Dusten Brown, and members of his family. Matt and Melanie Capobianco, of Charleston, S.C., say they are the rightful parents and have a South Carolina court order to prove it.

Brown and the Capobiancos were present at the Oklahoma Supreme Court chambers for nearly 90 minutes on Sept. 3 but left without comment. Family court proceedings are typically held in private, but courts have also ordered all parties not to talk about the case publicly. Two Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers stood guard outside the hearing as it began. After the hearing concluded, Brown left the court with his wife, Robin Brown, about five minutes before the Capobiancos.

A court referee who conducted the hearing is expected to decide whether the full Oklahoma Supreme Court should hear the case.

Brown has argued that Oklahoma or Cherokee Nation courts should have jurisdiction in the case, not South Carolina, since Veronica has lived in Oklahoma since 2011.

Veronica’s birth mother was pregnant when she put the girl up for adoption, and the Capobiancos had been lined up to receive custody since 2009. But Brown and his family claimed the Indian Child Welfare Act mandated that the child be raised within the Cherokee Nation, and he won custody when the girl was 2.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 with the intent of reducing the high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native American families. A South Carolina court cited the law when awarding Veronica to Brown in 2011, but the U.S. Supreme Court said this summer the law did not apply in Brown’s case because he had been absent from the child’s life.

A South Carolina family court judge then ruled in July that custody be awarded to the Capobiancos and ordered Brown to hand Veronica over. Brown refused, and South Carolina authorities charged Brown with custodial interference after he failed to show up to a court-ordered meeting.

But the biological father has argued that since Veronica has lived in Oklahoma for nearly two years, it would be particularly damaging to the girl to remove her to South Carolina.

The Capobiancos counter that South Carolina courts should determine the girl’s future because that’s where the girl was when the custody fight started. Online court records show that the Capobiancos have filed a motion to vacate the stay issued on Aug. 30.

A call to Brown’s lawyer was not returned on Sept. 3, and a spokeswoman for the Capobiancos said she could not comment because of the gag order.

The dispute has raised questions about jurisdictions, tribal sovereignty and the federal law meant to help keep Native American tribes together. Veronica’s birth mother is not Native American.

Injunuity inks deal with Canyon Records

August 30, 2013 - 9:00am



ADA, Okla. – Musicians Brad Clonch and Jeff Carpenter, better known as the Native American band Injunuity, have inked a record deal with an Arizona company.

Phoenix-based Canyon Records and Injunuity came to agreement almost a year ago. Canyon will release the band’s independently produced third compact disc “Fight For Survival.” The 2010 release won the band Songwriters of the Year honors at the Native American Music Awards or “Nammy.” Nammy awards are equivalent to mainstream music’s Grammy Awards.

“They (Canyon) are one of the largest distributors of Native American music nationally and internationally,” Clonch said. “They took the album and are redesigning the artwork. They are reproducing the recording tracks to give it more of a flare that they are accustomed to in terms of the Native flute. We signed on with them a year ago in October and they’ve been reworking Fight For Survival over the last year.

“Instead of Jeff and me selling CDs out of the trunks of our cars, it will be released to stores. Our music will be available in many locations. People will know ‘hey, here’s this new sound, this new band,’ ” Clonch added.

The musicians are expecting the release of Canyon’s version of “Fight For Survival” soon and with it they expect to become busier performing at Native American festivals and venues,

Not that they aren’t already busy. In fact, Clonch, who plays Native flute and is an accomplished pianist, and Carpenter, a multi-talented guitarist and saxophone player, recently ventured to Switzerland for a Native American concert known as Apache Moon for about a week in July.

Each raves about the experience, the welcome they received and how they were able to do radio and television interviews to inform people about their music, Chickasaw history and culture.

The festival’s organizer, Davide Buzzi, is interested in Native American music and culture.

He organized the festival in Semione, Switzerland, approximately 10 years ago. Both musicians said the opportunity to visit with Europeans and share what it means to be Native American was exciting.

Both work for the Chickasaw Nation. Carpenter is Chickasaw and Clonch is Mississippi Choctaw.

“There are still a lot of stereotypes about Native Americans, especially (in Europe),” Clonch said. “A lot of them think we still live on reservations, ride horses, and live in tipis. It’s actually very cool. Instead of them coming to America, we traveled to Europe to share our culture with them.”

The pair explained to European media while some tribes did live in tipis, the Chickasaws lived in villages comprised of a summer home and winter home made of mud huts with a thatch roof.

“We were able to educate them on that and show them it’s not always what Hollywood portrays,” Clonch explained. “We were able to teach them some Chickasaw words and we sat down for many interviews where we talked about the Chickasaw Nation, how it was removed from the ancestral home lands and how it has thrived and continues to thrive in Oklahoma.”

With a newly-released fourth CD titled “Spirits,” a recording contract, and interest in the group spreading globally, Injunuity hits the road again in September.

A two-day festival celebrating Native Americans is held annually in Tuscumbia, Ala. Injunuity will make its sixth appearance there in as many years.

“That festival is probably one of the biggest reasons we still exist,” Carpenter notes with a big smile. “The reception we get out there was just unbelievable.”

“When you go to an area where people don’t experience (Native music) every day, they are just in awe of it,” Clonch said.



To learn more about the band and performance dates, visit www.injunuity.net.




Injunuity members Jeff Carpenter, left, on guitar, and Brad Clonch, right, on Native flute, are awaiting release of an independently produced compact disc picked up by Phoenix-based Canyon Records. Both say the re-release should occur soon although a definite date has not been set.

RICHARD BARRON | ADA MAGAZINE | COURTESY PHOTO



UKB council votes to compromise; casino slated to shut down

August 28, 2013 - 9:56pm

 

The United Keetoowah Band council voted 10-2 to begin talks on an offer from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker to have the Department of the Interior take the casino’s 2.03-acre parcel of fee land into trust for the Cherokee Nation and sign a 99-year lease agreement.

 

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with two Tahlequah tribes will negotiate a potential compromise that would allow the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians to keep their lone casino in business.

On Tuesday afternoon, the UKB council voted 10-2 to begin talks on an offer from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker to have the Department of the Interior take the casino’s 2.03-acre parcel of fee land into trust for the Cherokee Nation and sign a 99-year lease agreement with an automatic renewal clause that would allow the UKB to operate the facility.

The decision came after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency motion from the tribe to stay a temporary injunction handed down by Northern District of Oklahoma Judge Gregory Frizzell on Aug. 12 that prevents the DOI from taking the land into trust for the UKB.

Citing irreparable harm to its sovereignty and economic interests, Cherokee Nation and one of its businesses, Cherokee Nation Entertainment, requested the injunction, which is still under appeal by the UKB. Under the terms of a law adopted in 2011, the Cherokee Nation’s executive branch must actively object to any attempts by another tribe to take a portion of the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdictional area into trust unless otherwise authorized by a two-thirds vote of the Tribal Council.

The UKB and the state of Oklahoma signed a settlement agreement last June, requiring the tribe to pay $2 million in damages for operating the casino without a compact. Under the terms of the agreement, the casino’s property had to be in trust by July 31 or state officials would shut it down.

After a request from the DOI for an indefinite extension was denied, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office agreed to a one-month extension in exchange for the UKB dropping a federal lawsuit against the state and increasing its monthly settlement payments by $5,000. That extension is on file with the Eastern District of Oklahoma as the settlement’s final action, meaning the casino must close, at least temporarily, by 11:59 p.m. Friday if the property’s status remains unchanged.

Opened in 1986 as Keetoowah Bingo, the casino directly employs about 150 people and funds the paychecks of more than 70 tribal government employees.  A primary revenue source, it is the largest business operated by the 15,000-citizen tribe.

Proposed Indian museum in OKC faces opposition

August 26, 2013 - 11:09am

 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The idea was ambitious and smart: Design a sprawling multimillion-dollar museum in Oklahoma’s capital city to pay homage to the state’s 39 federally recognized tribes, build it at the intersection of two cross-country interstates, then take in millions of dollars as tourists from around the world flocked to Smithsonian-quality exhibits.

But the reality is far different at the $170 million American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. It’s half-built and short of the money needed for completion two decades after the idea was proposed and seven years after the land was blessed by tribes and construction started.

“It is a costly project. I don’t think anyone has ever denied that,” said Sen. Kyle Loveless, whose district includes the museum site at the intersection of Interstates 35 and 40 near downtown Oklahoma City. Once a self-acknowledged skeptic of the project, Loveless is now one of its biggest supporters.

“To me, it’s one of those projects where long-term and short-term, once people see that it’s open and when we finally get there, they will appreciate it,” he said.

When completed, the cultural center and museum will feature material from each Oklahoma tribe that is recognized by the federal government and items from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington and other tribal museums. One study said the museum could generate $3.8 billion in economic activity regionally over the next 20 years.

But whether it will ever be completed the way its supporters envision it is a major issue. Initially, federal, state and private sources would split the costs evenly, but after federal funds dried up, the Native American Cultural and Education Authority, the state agency overseeing the museum project, turned to the state.

At that point $91 million – much of it via state bonds – had been devoted to the project, leaving it $80 million short. Gov. Mary Fallin hired executive director Blake Wade to raise $40 million in private donations and promised $40 million in matching money for the project.

The private donations were raised, but the state Legislature has balked at passing the bill to provide matching funds. Two years ago, the bill failed to pass through the Senate by one vote. In the 2013 session, Wade and Loveless said they were confident they had the necessary votes to pass the bill to secure the $40 million in funding and re-start construction that had stopped July 1, 2012.

Then disaster struck.

An EF5 tornado sliced through Moore, killing more than 20 people during the final week of the legislative session. Supporters of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, which is just 10 miles north of where the May 20 tornado struck, told legislators to focus efforts on tornado recovery.

“Families are hurting. Lives have been lost. Helping out friends, neighbors and families through this hardship takes priority. There is another day to perform our task,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby, chairman of the Native American Cultural and Education Authority board, said at the time.

Lawmakers ended up passing several items related to tornado recovery efforts, including a $45 million relief package and tax reforms for victims. It was a move that Loveless and Wade said was the necessary and the right thing to do. But once again, the museum was without money to continue with construction.

A new opening date has been set for 2017, Wade said. Right now, dirt or bare concrete paths wind through the grounds while specially selected stone pieces quarried for the project sit unused. Plywood covers the walkway to a large promontory designed to resemble historic American Indian mounds.

Meanwhile, the state is paying $52,000 a month for security at the site until lawmakers can vote on the $40 million funding bill in February.

That’s when, Wade said, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum faces what could be its last chance to convince the lawmakers of the project’s importance.

“I feel this really would be our last opportunity this next session, in my opinion. We cannot continue to pay $52,000 a month for many more years,” he said.

Both Wade and Loveless think the third time is the charm, and now Wade is focusing on maintaining contributions from about 150 private donors like Tulsan George Kaiser, a billionaire businessman and philanthropist who donated $1 million, and companies like Devon Energy.

It’ll be an uphill battle to convince lawmakers like Sen. Greg Treat, though.

Treat said he wants the cultural center and museum completed like everyone else – just not with any more state money. Treat believes the project could be finished with additional fundraising from private donors.

The Republican senator was one of three lawmakers who asked Fallin to request an audit of the project last year.

The audit found that the board chose the most expensive proposal to build the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, while having only $5 million in funding at the time. It also said lawmakers need to play a greater role in overseeing the project.

Treat said legislators didn’t offer the proper oversight of the project, while he found it “troublesome” that the board would select the most expensive options, he said.

Loveless, though, thinks people will realize the project’s potential once it’s complete.

“It has been a bumpy road, but I definitely think it’s going to be worth it,” he said.




The $170 million American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City is short of money needed for completion. The land on which it sits was blessed seven years.

LISA SNELL | NATIVE TIMES PHOTO

Veronica case: Motion filed to suspend visits from Capobiancos

August 25, 2013 - 4:07pm


It is unclear whether Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the James Island, S.C., couple attempting to adopt the child, have actually met with the girl and if so, how often, since arriving in Oklahoma two weeks ago.

 

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A motion is now on file to suspend any visits between a non-Native South Carolina couple and the three-year-old Cherokee child they have been attempting to adopt for almost four years.

According to docket sheets posted Sunday on the On Demand Court Records system, Angel Smith, the court-appointed attorney for Cherokee Nation citizen Veronica Brown, filed the motion Friday in Cherokee County District Court, along with a request for a hearing to revisit the matter.

Smith was appointed in Cherokee County District Court on Aug. 19 after representing the child in Cherokee Nation District Court for almost a month. She is also Brown’s representative in a federal lawsuit filed last month by the Native American Rights Fund, the National Indian Child Welfare Association and the National Congress of American Indians.

It is unclear whether Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the James Island, S.C., couple attempting to adopt the child, have actually met with the girl and if so, how often, since arriving in Oklahoma two weeks ago. The Capobiancos were awarded custody of the child last month by a South Carolina family court judge, but the order has not been enforced in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has threatened to sign off on an extradition warrant for Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, if he did not allow the couple to see the girl. Brown is wanted in South Carolina for custodial interference after missing a court-ordered visitation with the Capobiancos and an adoption investigator earlier this month while he was at National Guard training in Iowa. He has since turned himself in to Sequoyah County law enforcement and has a hearing scheduled for Sept. 12 in Sallisaw.

Along with Smith’s motions, the Capobiancos have filed their own motions with the court objecting to the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent Veronica Brown’s best interests during the court proceedings, as well as their objection to Smith’s appointment as the three-year-old’s lawyer.

Additionally, special judge Holli Wells entered an order of recusal Friday, excusing herself from future proceedings in the case.

Thanks to a gag order issued by both the Cherokee County District Court and the Cherokee Nation District Court and a seal on all related documents, no details are available about the flurry of Friday filings other than the docket sheet line items. Earlier this month, the two sides agreed to mediation, but it is unclear whether those talks have started and if so, how they have progressed. It is also unclear what, if any, challenges were filed in Oklahoma to the South Carolina family court’s order granting custody to the Capobiancos. Under Oklahoma statute, Brown and his attorneys had until Friday to do so.

 


Matt and Melanie Copabianco (back left and right) arrive at Cherokee Nation Courthouse on Aug. 16 for a custody hearing involving a 3-year-old Cherokee girl they are trying to adopt.


LISA SNELL | NATIVE TIMES PHOTO

Creek protestor Wayland Gray found guilty in Alabama court

August 23, 2013 - 12:29pm

WETUMPKA, Ala. – An Elmore County District Court judge found a Muscogee (Creek) citizen guilty Thursday on misdemeanor charges stemming from a February protest.

Judge Glenn Goggans found Wayland Gray guilty of trespassing and criminal conduct. Originally sentenced to 120 days in the Elmore County jail, Gray’s sentence was suspended to two years’ probation and $350 in fines.

Gray’s attorneys are planning on appealing the decision and ask for a jury trial.

Gray and three other men were arrested Feb. 15 near the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ Wind Creek Casino in Wetumpka, Ala., for trespassing after they tried to conduct a prayer service for their ancestors once buried there. Expansion efforts at the casino overlap with Hickory Ground, a pre-removal burial ground and sacred site for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, headquartered in Okmulgee, Okla. The $246 million casino construction project has unearthed 57 sets of human remains, prompting a federal lawsuit from the Oklahoma tribe and protests from its citizens.

Trespassing charges against the other three protesters were dropped earlier this year, as was a felony complaint against Gray for allegedly making a terrorist threat against the facility and its management.

Earlier this year, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ Tribal Council voted to permanently ban Gray and the other three men from all Poarch Band property, including its three casinos and offices in Atmore.

A representative for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians declined to comment.





Native Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo to Document Trial of Sacred Land Advocate



WETUMPKA, Ala. – Filmmaker Sterlin Harj  joined the delegation of more than 50 members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation who traveled this week from Oklahoma to Wetumpka to attend the criminal trial of sacred land advocate Wayland Gray. 

“It’s important to document this issue because gaming on sacred land is an issue that will likely affect Native Nations in the future,” said Harjo.

Last September, Harjo released his short film about the conflict between the Muscogee Creek Nation and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians titled “Back to Nature – The Battle for Hickory Ground.”

On February 15, 2013, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians arrested Gray and three other men for attempting to access the Hickory Ground ceremonial ground, where the human remains of approximately 57 Muscogee ancestors were excavated to build a casino.

The men who sought to pray for their ancestors at Hickory Ground were charged with criminal trespassing, and Gray was charged with making a terrorist threat—a felony punishable up to ten years in prison under Alabama law--for comments he allegedly made to the arresting officers.  

The Alabama District Court in Wetumpka sent the case to a Grand Jury on March 20, 2013, to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Gray for the felony terrorist threat charge.  After evaluating the evidence, the Grand Jury determined there was no probable cause to prosecute Gray for making a terrorist threat, and remanded the case to the District Court on May 1, 2013. 

The trespassing charges against three of the men were dismissed.  Gray refused to accept a deal to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.  His bench trial on the criminal trespass and disorderly conduct charges before Elmore County District Judge Glenn Goggans is scheduled to begin Thursday, August 22 at 9:00am.

Wayland Gray stated, “We are only here to honor our ancestors and protect sacred land.  Regardless of the outcome we know the Creator is on our side.”

For more information visit www.SaveHickoryGround.org or facebook.com/SaveHickoryGround.



Link to video of arrest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0S3a–chc1M

Sterlin Harjo’s Back to Nature – The Battle for Hickory Ground


Designer Paul Frank teams up with Native American artists on new line

August 19, 2013 - 9:53am

 

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (AP) – It was Fashion’s Night Out in Los Angeles. Celebrities and models packed parties and shopping extravaganzas thrown by designers and retailers.

The people at Paul Frank Industries – famous for putting Julius the monkey on everything from T-shirts to bicycles – were hoping to have some fun with the latest trend of Native American inspired designs. Their offerings included feather headbands, toy tomahawks and glow-in-the-dark war paint.

The backlash was in full swing within 24 hours.

Bloggers and other critics blasted last year’s neon-lit powwow as racist and the latest fashion faux pas to anger Native Americans.

After apologizing, Paul Frank Industries spent nearly a year working with its most vocal critics and a diverse team of Native American artists and designers to create a new collection of merchandise with a distinct Native flavor.

This time, it was done right, said Elie Dekel, president of Saban Brands, the parent company of Paul Frank.

The beaded sunglasses, brightly colored handmade accessories, tote bags and graphic T-shirts were set to be unveiled last Friday at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe as part of the annual Santa Fe Indian Market festivities.

Bloggers Adrienne Keene, a member of the Cherokee tribe who writes Native Appropriations, and Jessica Metcalfe, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa from North Dakota who runs Beyond Buckskin, were among those involved in the monthly conference calls and hundreds of emails that were shared over many months as the project developed.

Keene, in a recent blog post, called the collaboration “a big win for Indian Country” but said it was important to remember what sparked the collaboration.

“Remembering the beginning is how we continue to move forward together,” she wrote. “History is written by those in power, so we need to continue to push to have our version shared and not forgotten.”

People who worked on the project were hoping the collaboration will serve as a template for other manufacturers to be more thoughtful when dealing with cultural imagery.

“We were sincerely aghast at how we had found ourselves in that situation about a year ago, and today it’s truly humbling to all involved that it has emerged into something so positive,” Dekel said.

Dekel said it wasn’t until he started talking to Keene and Metcalfe that he learned the problem was much bigger than a Warholesque flier featuring Julius in a headdress.

“It illuminated a larger issue of wow, Native American imagery and cultural references have been appropriated by numerous companies and businesses and industries over generations now,” he said. “This is an ongoing issue.”

Last fall, Victoria’s Secret apologized for putting a Native American-style headdress on a model for its annual fashion show. The outfit was criticized as a display of ignorance toward tribal culture and history.

The band No Doubt also apologized after running into criticism for its cowboys-and-Indians-themed video. In 2011, Urban Outfitters Inc. set off a firestorm with its line of Navajo-branded clothing and accessories that included underwear and a liquor flask.

The collection created by Paul Frank and the Native designers incorporates beading techniques and designs that are influenced by tribal cultures that stretch from the Navajo and Taos Pueblo in the Southwest to the Great Plains and Canada.

The designers include Autumn Dawn Gomez, who is Comanche and Taos; Louie Gong of the Nooksack Tribe; Candace Halcro, who is Plains Cree and Metis Aboriginal; and Dustin Quinn Martin of the Navajo Nation.

Since some of the items are handmade, Paul Frank officials say they will only be available in limited quantities. Items such as the T-shirts, pillows and blankets will be available to a wider audience. The prices range from under $20 to $200.




Designer Paul Frank unveils fashion collaboration with Native American Designers during Santa Fe Indian Market Week.

PRNEWSFOTO | PAUL FRANK

Tribe takes steps toward own currency

August 19, 2013 - 9:43am

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – The director of the Crow Tribe’s business development department hopes creating a tribal currency will spur tribal members to spend money on the reservation and encourage the creation of more businesses.

The tribe is minting copper, silver and gold coins called “scouts” to serve as its sovereign currency, The Billings Gazette reported Friday.

Ceivert LaForge, director of the tribe’s LLC Department, has been working on the project since March with Eddie Allen, director of the Dallas-based Sovereign Economics. The company’s website says it helps “nations, states, communities and groups” establish their own currencies.

The tribe introduced the new currency Friday evening during the Crow Fair powwow.

To help finance the launching of the Crow currency, the tribe commissioned 1,000 one-ounce silver medallions commemorating the Battle of the Little Bighorn. They are not currency and are being sold for $50 each, mainly to coin collectors.

The tribe hopes to introduce the currency gradually, possibly by having tribal employees receive some of their pay in scouts, with the proportion of Crow currency increasing over time.

The Crow scouts will include six coins – two copper, two silver and two gold – each stamped with the image of a different Crow chief.

The tribe will sell one-tenth ounce silver coins on Friday for $4.50. They are valued at $5. Copper coins valued at $1 were supposed to be available Friday as well, but they are not yet finished.

LaForge said the tribe is working to create an Office of Currency to oversee the monetary system.

The Sovereign Economics website lists several examples of groups and nations that have established their own currencies, including the Lakota Nation in South Dakota, the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi and the American Redoubt, a group of survivalists who hope to set up a “safe haven” in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and eastern Washington and Oregon.

LaForge said he hopes the “scouts” are more successful on the Crow reservation than the Lakota currency has been. He said it is still little used on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, six years after it was first issued.




The Crow Tribe commissioned silver medallions commemorating the Battle of the Little Bighorn to help finance the launch of the tribe’s own currency.

COURTESY PHOTO

Pages